Ramazzini Institute Study: Animal Study on Base Station/Cell Tower Radiofrequency Radiation Question & Answer

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Ramazzini Institute Study: Animal Study on Base Station/Cell Tower Radiofrequency Radiation

 

The study entitled “Report of final results regarding brain and heart tumors in Sprague-Dawley rats exposed from prenatal life until natural death to mobile phone radiofrequency field representative of a 1.8 GHz base station environmental emission” is published online in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal Environmental Research.

 

What is this study designed to evaluate?

Using established scientific methods that are currently employed to evaluate drugs or toxic agents, this study tested animals for their full lifespan for potential adverse effects, in particular carcinogenic effects, from exposure to  “environmental” levels of radiofrequency radiation (RFR) 1.8 GHz GSM emitted by base stations—the transmitting wireless antennas mounted on cell towers.

 

What is the study design?

Beginning in prenatal life until natural death, 2448 male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to radiation designed to mimic base station exposures (1.8 GHz GSM modulated far field RFR of 0, 5, 25, or 50 V/m for 19 hours per day.) These RFR levels are below current U.S. FCC RFR public exposure limits for operating cell towers.

 

What are the important findings?

  • An increase in the incidence of very rare highly malignant tumors—schwannomas of the heart—was observed in male rats and reached statistical significance at the highest dose. These are the same types of rare and malignant tumors found to be increased in the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) $25 million animal study of cell phone radiation that used far higher RFR exposure levels. The tumors are also the same histotype as found to be increased in long term cell phone users.
  • An increase in the incidence of Schwann cells hyperplasia was observed in male and female rats treated at the highest dose, but did not reach statistical significance. An increase in the incidence of malignant glial tumors of the brain was observed in female rats treated at the highest dose but did not reach statistical significance.
  • An increase in hyperplasia of Schwann cells combined with all schwannomas of the heart. Although a hyperplasia is not a tumor, it is considered a pre-cancerous lesion. This analysis strengthens the conclusion that Schwann cells of the heart are a target of RFR in rats. The increase in neoplastic and pre-neoplastic lesions of the heart in the Ramazzini Institute (RI) study are consistent with the results from the NTP study and demonstrate that these proliferative effects of RFR are a reproducible finding.
  • Consistent with the  NTP, the RI also reported a decrease in litter weights in the RFR exposed groups ( January 2017).

 

Why is this study so important?  

The study provides significant new scientific  evidence that malignant schwannoma (a carcinogenic effect) is associated with low-level RFR. All Ramazzini RFR exposures were at non thermal levels the US government considers “allowable” for cell tower installations, yet a statistically significant increase in malignancies was found, therefore establishing that such very low levels of RFR can cause adverse health effects.

 

The Ramazzini findings are consistent with and reinforce the findings of the National Toxicology Program cell phone RFR study. Specifically, both of these large-scale animal studies report increased incidence of schwannomas of the heart in RFR exposed Sprague-Dawley rats. These studies indicate that schwann cells of the heart are a target for radiofrequency radiation. These effects  are now considered a reproducible finding.

 

In studies of people who use cell phones, researchers have found increases in tumors of the same histotype as were found in this study. Vestibular schwannomas, referred to as acoustic neuromas, have been found to be increased in people who use cell phones for over a decade (long term). Thus, the same histotype of tumors have been found in human studies as in two large-scale controlled animal studies—providing strong confirmation of the association.

 

These experimental studies provide sufficient evidence to call for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to re-evaluate the carcinogenic potential of RFR in humans; IARC classified RFR as a Class 2 B “possible” human carcinogen in 2011. Several scientists state the weight of evidence showing an association with cancer has significantly increased with the NTP and RI studies and the IARC evaluation would now support a more definitive carcinogenic classification.

 

How do the Ramazzini Institute exposure levels compare to exposure to people?

This study tested the safety of RFR public exposure limits used in cell tower placement. When cell towers/cellular antennas are proposed in US communities, companies must show that the RFR levels do not exceed a certain threshold. All the exposures RI tested are far below these thresholds. They are below US FCC and internationally referenced ICNIRP limits for both cell tower RFR and for cell phone RFR. Note: some countries have lower limits than the US (such as Italy, Russia, India and China).

 

In one compares the Ramazzini exposures to cellphone radiation exposures, the RI study used exposures far lower than limits for cell phone radiation as well. Researchers estimated Ramazzini whole-body specific absorption rate (SAR) as 0.001 W/kg at 5 V/m , 0.03 W/kg at 25 V/m, and 0.1 W/kg at 50 V/m. Cell phone SAR limits are1.6 W/kg for the US and 2.0 W/kg for EU.

 

Animal studies are critically important to understanding human health effects but are not directly comparable. For example, what a rate gets at one level of exposure is not necessarily what a human could get at the same exposure Sometimes animals get a cancer in a specific organ but humans get the same type of cancer but in a different organ from the same carcinogenic agent. Sometimes animal tests find no effects but later testing does find an effect. This study is important because it confirms the NTP findings (which found the same tumor type) and is concordant with human studies of long term cell phone users (where long term case control studies have found the same tumor histotype- acoustic neuromas.)  Scientists consider an effect”reproducible” when animal studies and human studies find the same tumor histotype after an exposure.

 

The next step is for a health agency to do what is called a “quantitative risk assessment.” to determine the levels of risk for humans associated with this widespread exposure.  

 

So what do we do about cell towers?  

Transmitting wireless antennas such as those on cell towers, should not be be near homes, schools, parks or hospitals.  The priority should be to restore more wired communications to reduce the need for wireless connections. Wired communication is higher quality, less vulnerable to cyber attacks and safer for human health because wired technology does not have radiofrequency exposure.

 

In parallel with restoring and building out a wired infrastructure, the goal should be to reduce the power density of cell towers and base stations. People should have the opportunity to position themselves in healthier environments.  

 

Importantly, the exposures used in this study were at levels that are allowable and legal by the Federal Communications Commission.  The Ramazzini and National Toxicology Program Studies show that these FCC limits are non- protective. Over the last two decades more and more cell towers have been built in communities and the FCC

 

How do we use technology but reduce exposure to this type of radiation?

While government decision makers implement protective policies, the public can reduce exposure by useing technology in safer ways.

 

In the USA, the Connecticut and California Department of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics have issued specific steps that people can personally take to reduce exposure from cell phones. Strategies they recommend include:

  • Use speakerphone and distance the phone away from your head and body.
  • When talking on the cell phone, use speakerphone or airtube wired headset to reduce exposure to your head.  
  • Avoid carrying your phone against the body like in a pocket, sock, bra or spandex pants.    
  • Prefer texting to voice calls.
  • Minimize overall cell phone use.
  • Use a corded phone for voice calls (not cordless.)
  • Maintain a distance from wireless virtual assistants and wireless “smart” tech.  

 

The Maryland State Council on Children’s Environmental Health recommends reducing RFR in schools, and a new National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy report recommends a hardwired (rather than wireless) telecommunication infrastructure.

  • Laptops and tablets should be placed on a table, not on your lap.
  • Turn the WiFi OFF computers, laptops and electronics and connect to the internet with ethernet cords
  • Used wired, not wireless accessories.  
  • Support investments in fiber optics and protect landlines in your community for telecommunications.

 

What does this mean for governments and the public?

Even a small increase of the incidence of tumors induced by daily exposure to RFR could have a large impact for public health due to the widespread exposure. Every day 7 billion citizens are exposed to this radiation, so even if the risk is low, the impact could be quite high due to the large number of exposed individuals. We could expect thousands of people to be affected by serious disease from the exposure such as cancer of the brain and peripheral nerves.

Governments worldwide need to urgently strengthen regulations to protect the public against non-thermal health effects such as cancer from chronic RFR exposure. FCC limits on RFR are based on thermal effects such as overheating and burns from high microwave exposure, but not based on biological effects such as cancer, oxidative stress and impacts to brain development.

Policy solutions include: 1. Promote wireline (non-wireless) infrastructure for telecommunications networks, and 2. Substantially reduce or eliminate RFR and RFR sources in “sensitive areas” (neighborhoods, schools, daycares, hospitals and workplaces). Health agencies need to perform a quantitative risk assessment to determine the levels of risk to humans associated with this widespread exposure. Exposures to the public must be limited and reduced as much as possible, especially for children, pregnant women and medically compromised persons. The public needs greater awareness of how to reduce personal exposures to cell phones and wireless devices (examples: Distancing personal mobile and cordless devices away from all parts of the user’s body; Using and providing corded phones and wired devices rather than wireless as much as possible). The private sector should launch a research and development program to develop safer technology products and services for the marketplace and for telecommunications networks.

 

How do the Ramazzini Institute exposure levels compare to exposure to people?

This study tested the safety of RFR public exposure limits used in cell tower placement. When cell towers/cellular antennas are proposed in US communities, companies must show that the RFR levels do not exceed a certain threshold. All the exposures RI tested are far below these thresholds. They are below US FCC and internationally referenced ICNIRP limits for both cell tower RFR and for cell phone RFR. Note: some countries have lower limits than the US (such as Italy, Russia, India and China).

 

In one compares the Ramazzini exposures to cellphone radiation exposures, the RI study used exposures far lower than limits for cell phone radiation as well. Researchers estimated Ramazzini whole-body specific absorption rate (SAR) as 0.001 W/kg at 5 V/m , 0.03 W/kg at 25 V/m, and 0.1 W/kg at 50 V/m. Cell phone SAR limits are1.6 W/kg for the US and 2.0 W/kg for EU.

 

Animal studies are critically important to understanding human health effects but are not directly comparable. For example, what a rate gets at one level of exposure is not necessarily what a human could get at the same exposure Sometimes animals get a cancer in a specific organ but humans get the same type of cancer but in a different organ from the same carcinogenic agent. Sometimes animal tests find no effects but later testing does find an effect. This study is important because it confirms the NTP findings (which found the same tumor type) and is concordant with human studies of long term cell phone users (where long term case control studies have found the same tumor histotype- acoustic neuromas.)  Scientists consider an effect”reproducible” when animal studies and human studies find the same tumor histotype after an exposure.

 

The next step is for a health agency to do what is called a “quantitative risk assessment.” to determine the levels of risk for humans associated with this widespread exposure.  

 

What is the international scientific response to these public health concerns regarding RFR?

 

Switzerland, headquarters of the World Health Organization just voted in March 2018 to maintain their lower  RFR limits refusing to loosen their limits despite strong industry pressure. More than 20 government explicitly recommend that citizens, especially children, reduce RFR to their brain. Several countries such as India, Italy, Belgium, China and Russia have far lower RFR public exposure limits than the USA, Australia and ICNIRP.

 

Some countries limit the RFR even  further with special measures in “sensitive” areas such as hospitals, schools and nursery schools. As an example, Chile’s “Antennae Law” prohibits cell antennae/towers in “sensitive areas.”

 

The International EMF Scientist Appeal was submitted to the United Nations urging immediate protective policy action in light of the scientific evidence that has found adverse biological effects and as of March 2018, this Appeal is now signed by over 236 scientists (from 41 nations) who have published peer reviewed publications on electromagnetic fields. They state, “numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being.”

 

Why are these results called “partial”?

The results published here are final results about observations of only the brain and heart tissue. The study is not yet completed because tissues from other organs/tissues as well as the clinical data and data on the molecular biology has not been fully analysed.

 

In addition, the RI has also performed a lifetime rat study on RFR combined with gamma radiation to evaluate a synergistic effect from the combined exposure, but the study has not been completed. The results of these studies are critically important because a significant body of evidence exists that has found a tumor promotion effect and synergistic effect from electromagnetic fields. Prior animal studies on low dose RFR have found increased malignancies when the RFR was paired with a known carcinogen. As people are exposed to low levels of carcinogens daily in everyday life, this evidence is critically important. $300,000 is needed to complete these Ramazzini Studies on radiofrequency radiation.

 

The RI decided to publish these findings now with the aim to improve public health and to ensure that policymakers and regulators had this information. The NTP issued their findings on the brain and heart more than a year in advance of the full findings for the same reason.

 

Have other studies shown increases in schwannomas in rats?

The Ramazzini Institute previously published a large-scale study on rats that combined ELF-MF S-50 Hz exposure with gamma radiation and also found increases in schwannomas of the heart (in addition to increased incidence of mammary adenocarcinomas) related to the combined exposures, demonstrating that exposure to ELF-MF S-50 Hz can enhance the carcinogenic effects of g-radiation in male and female Sprague-Dawley rats. This is significant because these were both studies of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation which found schwannomas of the heart increased after exposure.

 

What action is the US government taking?

A long history of what Harvard Press’ book “Captured Agency” refers to as “undue industry influence” has led to the current situation in which no federal health agency is accountable to ensure that the public is adequately protected. Contrary to the public’s perception of safety, no US agency has done a recent systematic review of the scientific evidence, as the Center for Public Integrity explained in a 2018 article.

 

The EPA was tasked to develop safety standards decades ago, was on the verge of issuing proper standards and had an active research program until 1996 when a US Appropriations Bill not only removed the funding but also stated that “the Committee believes EPA should not engage in EMF activities.” The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was also passed at that time, and Section 704 of the Act  has been interpreted so that communities cannot regulate cell tower placement on the basis of radiation health concerns, despite the fact that no long-term research was done to understand the effects of RFR on human health.

 

Five year ago in 2013, he FCC opened a proceeding on radiofrequency radiation limits in response to a 2012 Government Accountability Office report on cell phone and radiofrequency radiation exposure limits that stated, “The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) RF energy exposure limit may not reflect the latest research….” However, no action by the FCC has been taken for five years, despite over 1,000 submissions from doctors, scientists and local governments. The FCC has no medical experts nor public health experts on staff with expertise to review submissions, and so they asked for US health and safety agencies to comment. However, none of the agencies the US public relies on for health information—such as the Centers for Disease Control, the National Cancer Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—has submitted comments with recommendations to the FCC. Congressional hearings on the health effects of cell phone radiation in 2008 and 2009 are viewable on C-Span and include Dr. Bucher presenting the NTP study design.

 

What research has linked long-term cell phone use to acoustic neuroma (also known as vestibular schwannoma)?  

In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, classified the agent radiofrequency radiation as a Class 2 B possible human carcinogen after a team of 31 scientists from 14 countries, including the United States, evaluated exposure data, studies of cancer in humans, studies of cancer in experimental animals, and mechanistic and other relevant data to reach their conclusion. The IARC classification was largely based on scientific research linking long-term exposure to cell phone radiation to the development of gliomas (a type of brain tumor) and acoustic neuromas. Published studies that have found an association between acoustic neuroma and long-term cordless phone (in the Swedish studies) and cell phone use include the multi-country Interphone Study, Swedish studies led by Dr. Lennart Hardell and a Japanese study. These research studies indicate a higher risk with highest cumulative exposure. As children will be exposed for a lifetime (decades), such findings are very relevant.  

 

The 2011 World Health Organization IARC press release quotes IARC Director Christopher Wild stating, “Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings, it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐ term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting.”

How much radiation are people exposed to by cell towers?

Our exposures are increasing, especially in urban areas. Citizens’ total exposure to RFR varies due to many factors in the environment (depending on how near they are to cell towers as well as cordless phones, baby monitors, Wi-Fi routers and other wireless transmitting devices) and from their personal behavior (depending on how close to their bodies they keep their cell phone/Wi-Fi device and Wi-Fi and other “wireless” accessories).

 

An Australian study looked at RFR levels to kindergarten children depending on how close their school was to base stations/cell towers. Researchers equipped the children with RFR measuring devices. Researchers found that kindergartens located nearby base stations/cell towers (closer than 300 meters or approximately 330 yards) had total exposure to radiofrequency (RF-EMF) radiation more than three times higher than children with base stations further away than 300 meters.

 

A recent study measured radiofrequency radiation exposures from cell phone towers, TV and FM radio broadcast antennas, cell phone handsets and Wi-Fi in several countries including Australia, Ethiopia, Nepal, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States. The researchers concluded that there was very wide variation in exposure across countries, however, they found that cell phone tower radiation is the dominant contributor to RFR exposure in most outdoor areas. The researchers also found exposure in urban areas was higher and that exposure has drastically increased over the last few decades. As an example, Los Angeles, USA was 70 times higher than the US EPA estimate 40 years ago.

 

A recently published measurement study of Stockholm Old Town found a wide range of RFR measurements, and the researchers found that while the average readings can seem lower, the peak levels measured can be tens of thousands of times higher. In other words, the RFR intensities can vary significantly over time and location but the hier numbers can be masked if the measurements are averaged. In addition, a study at Stockholm Central Station found “hotspots” of very high levels due to what researchers refer to as the “improper location” of a base station.

 

The reality is that exposure from cell towers is continuing to increase as we use wireless devices and as more antennas are installed in communities.

 

Does this study mean that newer technologies which can use lower power are safer?

No. Some research indicates that  more recent technologies could have a more dramatic biological effect. An analysis by cancer researchers utilizing published Swedish data found a three-fold higher risk from 3G UMTS modulated cell phone use compared to 2G technology even though 3G UMTS modulated cell phones can radiate 1,000-fold less power. These epidemiology findings correlate with research that has found that UMTS modulation inhibits DNA repair mechanisms and UMTS may have a more pronounced biological effect and thus a larger health risk  compared to GSM radiation emissions.

 

Modulations are evolving to transmit more data faster at a given frequency, and this results in higher peak-to-average power ratios. In the lab, it is notable that experiments using real-life wireless devices  consistently find biological effects in contrast to experiments simulating emissions.

 

So if I live in an area with RFR exposures less than the Ramazzini study levels, I’ll be safe?

No. This study confirms that safety is not assured at any level and the study was not designed for the identification of a “safe level.” This study confirms a human health risk from radiofrequency radiation.

 

In fact, newer wireless technologies could be far more harmful—even at the same power level. Some people think that if phones are designed to emit less power, they will be safer. The RI and NTP study found increasing effects at higher power levels so one might assume the higher the RFR level, the higher the effect. However, this is not the case. The Ramazzini Institute study used three power levels but only of one type of modulation called Global System for Mobile Communications or GSM. A significant effect was found. The NTP study looked at two types of modulations GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) yet found a much stronger effect in the CDMA groups. Why? Both NTP groups used the same frequency and the same power levels. Why were the carcinogenic effects more pronounced in the NTP’s CDMA groups? The answer is that communication signals are very complex and the modulation differences cold mean that even a signal at the same power has a different biological effect.  These different types of signals will impact living cells differently.

 

What is modulation and why did the NTP study test two different types of cell phone modulations?

Different telecom companies use different modulations for their cell phone networks. CDMA is more often used in the United States, and GSM is more often used in Europe.  Power intensity is only one piece of the complex interaction between the electromagnetic field and our bodies. Research has documented that different modulations could have different biological effects.

 

Back in 1999, the US Federal Interagency Workgroup wrote a letter citing how research shows different biological responses to modulated RF radiation exposures as compared to unmodulated exposures. Read the Letter. Currently, different modulations are in use that were never imagined decades ago when the original research was done trying to understand human health risk.

 

Cellular communication signals are very complex. Radiofrequency radiation with different modulations and characteristics can produce different effects, even though they may produce the same pattern of SAR distribution and tissue heating.

 

Decades of research has pointed to the importance of modulation in impacting human health. For example, 1994 a (U.S.) Air Force “Material Command, Rome Laboratory Radiofrequency / Microwave Radiation Biological Effects and Safety Standards: A Review stated, “It was recognized that the SAR does not encompass all of the important factors necessary to determine safe exposure levels. The modulation frequency and peak power of the incident EM field should also be considered. Some of the investigators warned that extra care should be taken by persons that are subjected to pulsed EM fields or by fields that are modulated near the whole-body resonance frequency.”

 

The NTP study was intentionally designed to study both modulations because the researchers wanted to understand potential effects from the different modulations.

 

Ramazzini Institute

Link to the Ramazzini Institute Study.

Link to Media Advisory Online With Biographies for Experts on Conference Call

Comparison of the Ramazzini Institute Study and National Toxicology Program Study

Recommendations on Reducing Cell Phone Radiation/ 5G Factsheet

 

Additional Resources:

Link to National Toxicology Program Studies of Cell Phone Radiation

Link to Infographic on Cell Phone Radiation

The National Toxicology Program Presentation on DNA Damage

National Toxicology Program (NTP) Cell Phone Radiation

Dr. Lennart Hardell and Colleagues Comments on the NTP

Dr. Melnicks Comments on the NTP

Dr. Devra Davis/EHT Comments on the NTP

 

Additional Resources:

Link to Infographic on Cell Phone Radiation

The National Toxicology Program Presentation on DNA Damage

Reuters News Article – “Italy court ruling links mobile phone use to tumor”

NY Daily News Article: “Italian Court Finds Link Between Cell Phone Use and Tumor”

 

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